Vice President Gore said he had analyzed George W. Bush's massive tax plan and concluded it would provide the working poor with just enough pocket change for a soda each week.

"It would mean one Diet Coke per week," Gore told about 300 Democratic activists at a community college in northwestern Iowa yesterday. "Eighty cents a week for the lower 20 percent of wage earners."

Gore wasted little time in attacking the Republican presidential front-runner's economic package. "It's not compassionate to save nothing for Social Security or Medicare and it's not conservative to blow the whole surplus and raise interest rates and put our economy at risk," Gore said, mocking Bush's campaign slogan of "compassionate conservatism.

"I think most people would prefer to safeguard Social Security and Medicare than to have 80 cents a week," he said. "I think most people would prefer to have a strong economy and not go back into debt, not go back into deficits than to have 80 cents a week."

From the moment Bush delivered his economic speech in Des Moines on Wednesday, the Gore camp has steadily ratcheted up its criticism. Two times yesterday, he held impromptu news conferences to lash the Bush approach and then promised to stay up late and dissect it further. "I will have more to say about this tomorrow," he said.

Gore added several satellite television interviews to his schedule yesterday to keep up the drumbeat and bring in Bill Bradley for some of the criticism. "Both George Bush and Bill Bradley have one thing in common," Gore said. "They have forgotten the principle of living within our fiscal means and investing in people."

2 Gay Officeholders Back Bradley

Bill Bradley won the endorsement yesterday of two gay New York City Council members in what will surely be a big fight for the gay vote in that state's Democratic presidential primary.

Margarita Lopez and Phil Reed, both first-term Democrats, said Bradley's positions on social issues--including health care and race as well as gay issues--made him their choice over Vice President Gore, the Associated Press reported. They said Bradley's call for abolishing the "don't ask, don't tell" rule for gays in the military and his support of federal domestic-partner benefits helped tip the scale in his favor.

Gore so far has said only that the current military policy has led to too many unfair discharges and should be implemented with "more compassion."


Speaking with reporters yesterday as she visited the Austin campaign headquarters of her son, George W. Bush, Barbara Bush said: "George is no dummy . . . maybe he was a tad of a late bloomer."